The Ultimate Chili Recipe
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Perfect for game day or just a comforting meal on a cold day, this chili recipe always satisfies.
This is my go-to chili recipe and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. It has a thick and tender texture with a rich, deep, and spicy flavor that will warm your bones from the inside out. The chili can be served in so many ways — with cornbread, over rice or pasta, or with tortilla chips for scooping — and it’s perfect for game day, casual get-togethers with friends and family, or just a comforting meal on a cold day. It also freezes well, so if you make a double batch, you can have some on hand for another meal.
The recipe calls for 85% lean ground beef, which is important as the fat helps to baste the meat and add flavor to the dish. After cooking, the fat can easily be skimmed off. I personally don’t add beans to this chili recipe, as my kids tend to eat around them, but feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans during the last half hour of cooking, if you like. And for those who prefer a sweeter chili, try adding a touch of molasses and cinnamon for a delicious twist.
Chili Recipe Ingredients
Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl.
Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. (I borrowed this tenderizing trick from Cook’s Illustrated; it works like a charm.)
Meanwhile, chop the veggies.
I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper.
Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the beef and increase the heat to high.
Cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using).
Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant. Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using).
Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.
Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!
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The Ultimate Chili Recipe
Perfect for game day or just a comforting meal on a cold day, this chili recipe always satisfies.
- 2.5 pounds 85% lean ground beef
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, for a sweeter chili)
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon molasses, such as Grandma's Original (optional, for a sweeter chili)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime
For Serving (optional)
- Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions
- In a large bowl, combine the beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and increase the heat to high; cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break the meat into ¼-inch pieces, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. (The beef will release a lot of liquid -- do not drain it; you'll skim the fat off at the end.)
- Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.
- Stir in the cornmeal, broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using); bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
- Skim any excess fat off the surface of the chili. (There will be quite a bit; don't worry about getting all of it, as it adds flavor.) Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. For a thinner chili, you can add a bit of water. To thicken the chili, continue simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.
- Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.
- Per serving (6 servings)
- Calories: 655
- Fat: 44 g
- Saturated fat: 15 g
- Carbohydrates: 28 g
- Sugar: 15 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 39 g
- Sodium: 1711 mg
- Cholesterol: 134 mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.
This recipe is fantastic–been making it for about 2 years now and feel it’s time I rate this deliciousness. I’ve made it with all-meat (as-is), as well as adapted with half meat/half beans. And finally, since we’ve gone more plant-based this year–all vegetarian. For the vegetarian version, I sub out the meat with about 2 cups of additional chopped veggies (orange bell peppers, zucchini or mushrooms, corn, carrots and celery–whatever I have on hand) and then 1 can each of pinto and black beans, adding more broth if needed or simmering off more if I want it thicker. I still use the beef broth since we’re not vegan. But I would bet the Better Than Bouillon brand of vegetable or mushroom base would work well. Always a winner, this recipe. Thanks!
The best chili I ever had!! I tweaked it a little but by far the seasoning combo was absolutely tremendous and had the greatest taste!!! Thank you and we’ll done!!!!
I have been using this recipe, with modifications, for over 4 years. My late husband totally loved it as it is. I have needed to modify it for my new husband, who hates spicy-hot foods. I removed the chili flavors and doubled the smoked paprika and wow, it’s SO GOOD! I usually pair it with the cornbread muffins, substituting einkorn flour for the wheat flour because of my wheat allergy. Total winner!
Love this recipe. If I were to substitute beans rather than beef. Which beans would you recommend and how much…
Hi Michael, So glad you like this! As the chili has so much beef, I don’t feel confident it would translate well to all beans. I think you’d have better luck looking for a vegetarian/bean-based chili. Sorry!
Mine turned out super spicy–even my husband who likes things spicy said it was too hot. I am not sure I will be able to eat it and I am wondering what went wrong. I did use only one pound of ground turkey instead of the full 2.5 pounds of beef, and added two cans of kidney beans instead. Other than that (which may be a big change), I followed the recipe exactly. Do spices vary in their heat? I made a point to buy and use the ancho and chipotle chili powder called for. Or is it because I used less meat and added beans? I have made many of your recipes and have always had success.
Wendy, sorry to hear this came out too spicy for you! I’d add some sour cream into your bowl as dairy helps to temper some of the heat. Regarding spices, there is some variation depending on the brand you buy, but I don’t think it would be that significant. You asked about the beans possibly making a difference; I think not having the fat from the beef may have contributed slightly to making the chili a bit spicier. If you make it again, I’d try subbing some regular chili powder in for some of the chipotle, chili powder. Hope that helps!
This is an excellent chili, as other reviewers have said. I reduced the ground beef to l lb. and served this over whole-wheat spaghetti (could do spaghetti squash or zoodles, too). Because it is a tomato-forward chili, this worked really well. If you are eating it over spaghetti, the recipe really stretches to several meals for the freezer. Thanks for another great recipe.
Do you use Mexican oregano?
Hi Kathy, I just use regular dried oregano.
Yum! Can I do some Mexican chorizo in place of the ground beef? (¼-½lb?) Thank you in advance Chef!
Sorry if I’m asking a question already asked, but can I make this in a crockpot?
Yep, that will work.
My GO-TO!! I use this recipe every time, adding black, garbanzo, and kidney beans since I have a family of big eaters–makes it stretch farther. I have a question:
I use the Costco 6 lb pack of ground beef. Do I adjust the baking soda mixture to scale or keep the original quantities?
Glad you enjoy it, Mel. I would adjust the baking soda to scale. 🙂
Have made this many times over the years and it continues to be a family favorite. Just wanted to say thanks for the incredible recipe!
This chili was excellent. My family loved it. I just used ingredients I had at home, and unfortunately I only had conventional chili powder so I used that and added a little cayenne pepper to spice it up. I also didn’t have molasses, so I added just a pinch of sugar and 2 squares of baker’s chocolate. The only real change I would make is to brown the meat separately and drain the fat; trying to spoon it off after the fact was a pain and certainly less effective. Great chili though! Next time I’ll make sure to have some ancho chili powder!
Could this be made in a slow cooker?
Hi Jack, It could be but I’d still cook the veggies and meat on the stovetop first. Enjoy!
Does seasoning need to be adjusted if I add a can of beans and a cup of corn? Also any tips on how to make it in an instant pot?
Hi Sonia, no, no need to adjust the seasoning if you’re adding the beans and corn. Just make sure to drain and rinse the beans before adding. And I don’t have an instant pot but another reader used one and said the following: I followed everything but just sautéd and boiled in the instant pot and used the chili setting, which is 30 minutes on high. I used natural release for 10 minutes. Hope you find it useful and enjoy the chili!
I made this tonight as part of my ‘Treat Day’ contribution for the staff at my school. So I didn’t follow recipe exactly, but I did use all the seasonings/spices (except for the cinnamon — I’ll use that next time when I’m making the chili for my family); I did improvise a wee bit. Can you explain to me please, Jen, what is the purpose of the cornmeal? I have never seen this in a chili recipe. Is it meant to thicken the chili? I did use it and will see what it adds to the recipe on Friday when we enjoy our Treat Day! It does have quite a bit of heat but I love the flavour of the seasonings!
Hi Lori, Glad you like the chili. Yes, the cornmeal helps thicken the chili a bit and also adds nice flavor.
I was thinking the same thing. I dont have corn meal. Is there anything I can sub this with? It is hard to find corn meal in Korea.
Hi Cloud, You can use finely crushed tortilla chips or simply leave it out. Hope that helps!
This is the BEST chili I have ever made!!!
Didn’t have the Ancho Chili Powder, so added a chopped jalapeno.
Did not use beans but could.
Definitely spicy hot, just the way I like it.
Will be my go-to for chili!!!
Thanks for sharing.
One other thing, I did not use low sodium broth.
Do you know approximately how many cups one batch of chili makes?
Hi Carolyn, I’d guesstimate a serving is about 2 cups. Hope you enjoy if you make it!
2 cups? That feels like a typo.
Hi Shan, thanks for pointing that out! I was thinking about serving size when I responded. This should make about 3 quarts give or take.
Love this chili! It is by far the best!!! I have a crazy question to ask and wasn’t sure if you have a good taco soup recipe? If not, no worries but craving a tex mex soup this winter!
So glad you like it! Not a crazy question — I have a chicken tortilla soup and a Southwestern Corn Chowder on the site. Neither of which are exactly what you’re looking for, but maybe could satisfy your craving until you find a good taco soup recipe. 🙂
Made the Classic Beef Chili for my brother as he loves chili. The consistency was great and it had great flavor but this was VERY hot from the spice. How can I cut the heat? I added extra lime juice. I really love your recipes, and have made several. Keep up the great recipes!
Sorry that you found this to be too spicy! Next time you make it, you can replace the chipotle chili powder with an additional tablespoon of ancho chili powder as this is primarily where the heat comes from. If you have some chili left, you can mix some sour cream in before eating — dairy helps to temper spicy food. Hope that helps!
I made this on Sunday and we had it for dinner last night. It was delicious Jenn. Glad I added the molasses as I believe it tamped down the heat some. I did forget to add the two tablespoons of water to the uncooked beef 🤬 but not the soda and salt. I love that it makes a large amount, I’ll get three meals out of it. I served it over mashed potatoes, an old depression trick that stretches the meat I’ll be making this again for sure.
I made this chili for the first time tonight for my ladies Bible study group. I’m not big on heat, so I reduced the ancho powder, subbed out brown sugar for the molasses and added some kidney beans. I also used cornstarch to thicken it up. I loved it, and it got amazing reviews. It was made with your cornbread muffins which I have made many times, and the apple crisp for dessert, also a first. I love every recipe you put out. Thanks so much!
So, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, just another form of salt. Unfortunately I didn’t remember this before adding almost 1 tsp per 2.5 lbs of meat for a 10 lbs of meat batch of chili, per these instructions. Plus the 2 tsp of salt it also recommends. I’m disabled so cook large amts then freeze for individual meals so I won’t need to cook every day. It did tenderize the meat. However I noticed severe swelling & couldn’t figure out what was going on w my body. Finally i realized it was the very large quantities of sodium I was eating in every serving of chili. What a bummer because I am going to either have to give it all away or throw it away, because I literally can’t eat it. I tried adding more low-sodium veggies, but all the sodium is deeply cooked into the meat so it doesn’t seem to have helped the situation. I hope my comment helps warn others about the extremely high levels of sodium in this recipe. Please see the nutritional info, 1711mg per single serving. Our total daily sodium intake shouldn’t exceed 2300mg. I don’t have the means to lose this much food this month. It is what it is, but just remember baking soda is salt lol. Best of luck & happy cooking.
Sodium isn’t your issue, it’s the table salt you use, that is doing harm to your body. Table salt is a manufactured form of sodium called sodium chloride. It also has synthetic chemicals added: everything from manufactured forms of sodium solo-co-aluminate, iodide, sodium bicarbonate, fluoride, anti-caking agents, toxic amounts of potassium iodide and aluminum derivatives. Table salt is not only unhealthy, it is downright damaging. Google “dangers of table salt” to learn more. And switch to a high quality sea salt, which you can enjoy in whatever quantity you’d like.
I read your comments some time ago. What surprises me about your post, are a couple of things…by reading the entire post, you’ll understand why baking soda is used here. But if sodium sensitivity is something you’re managing, there is so much information easily & readily available via the Internet. Jenn doesn’t claim to be a dietitian, nor is her site (or books), one of the many traditional “diet” books easily available today. However,if tweaking a recipe or substituting ingredients are needed, it isn’t all that difficult or time consuming.
Cooking large quantities is something I think many of us engage in today, all the more reason to have completely read recipes & know what changes might be required.
Another 5 Star recipe 😊
Great chili. The tip for “conditioning” the beef with soda is really good. The texture is much nicer.
Jenn, the Beef Tenderizing trick is a game changer. Incredible tip. Thank you! I wonder–can it be used to also tenderize ground turkey and chicken? Would love your expert opinion.
Hi Diane, Glad you found it helpful! I’ve never tried it on turkey or chicken. so I’m not sure if it would make a difference. Please LMK what you think if you try it!
Thanks, Jenn. Promise to let you know. Was telling a friend about this tenderizing tip–made her wonder if it would also work when preparing hamburgers for the grill or skillet, etc. My guess is it’s only good for ground beef as I didn’t see it mentioned in any of your burger recipes…Would love your thoughts.
Hi Diane, Because I usually use something else in hamburgers to tenderize them (for example a mixture of bread and milk in this recipe), I haven’t tried the baking soda method with them.
Got it. Thanks for letting me know. Will use your burger recipe and communicate this info. If we ever try the baking soda on them instead, I’ll let you know the results. Thanks Again, Jenn. Always learning from you. 🙂
I was a professional chef for almost 30 years, and have my own chili recipe that I developed for Southwest style Chicken Chili. It’s delicious but not “a bowl of red”, and my husband finally asked me to make “traditional” Chili. I found this recipe and it’s temderizing trick, and with a few personal tweaks, it is the only Chili I’ve made for years. It is SO good, and SO easy. It is also extremely adaptable, so whatever turns you on in terms of flavor, this recipe handles it beautifully. (I roast a whole head of garlic and mix it in, because yum, roasted garlic!) It’s also a nice, easy, uncomplicated recipe for someone who might be a beginner! Two thumbs up, this Chili absolutely rocks. Thank you!!
Other than the garlic, do you do anything else?
Ok, where are the beans in this recipe? Isn’t chili all about the beans?
Hi Caesar, feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans for the last half hour of cooking, if you like. 🙂
if you’d read the recipe, you would see where Jenn includes when to add beans.
But, just a kind FYI, NO, according to many lovers of chili, including my cowboy/horseman husband, REAL Chili doesn’t have beans. His colleagues share the same sentiment.
As a former professional chef who spent time in Montana, Wyoming & Colorado, my chefs did not include beans in their chili recipes.
I do know there is a debate over whether or not to include beans.
But back to your question, that’s why it’s a good idea to read the whole recipe. Your question is answered. And btw, Jenn’s recipes always include complete instructions, in fact, she’s one of the few to do such an outstanding job providing everything you need to replicate her recipes at home.
Jenn, thank you 🙏 thank you for another great recipe! My husband and his buddies inhaled it after a cattle sorting-
Was sooooo good!
Does salt affect anything but the taste? You’ve sold me on the need for baking soda to ensure moist hamburger, but I have to reduce total sodium given hubby’s heart condition. We’ve gotten used to the taste of un- or under-salted food and guests know to add their own salt.
Hi, the salt won’t impact anything other than the taste so feel free to reduce as needed. 🙂
Excellent. This is our new favorite chili. Perfect consistency and flavor. Thank you.
I really like this chili no matter what name you put on it 😉.
Love to hear from folks that screwed with the recipe by adding beans. I’m thinking of Pinto Beans myself. I going to rinse the beans and add one can the first time around, and then add another if I think I’d prefer it that way. I’m going to start by putting the beans in for in for the last half an hour and see if that’s enough.
Sure would like to hear some advice in advance…
Hi Michael, I think that pinto beans are a great option for chili. You actually can put them in just for the last few minutes of cooking time so they get heated through. Hope that helps!
We’re Texans and love your chili! Try this! It is so well flavored without being hot. The hint of cinnamon and molasses balance out the spice. ❤️ Thank you for another great recipe!
Oh no. I don’t have molasses. Should I run out and get it or is their a sub?
Hi Amy, It’s totally fine to leave it out. If you’d like a little sweetness, a pinch or two of sugar will work.
I always substitute light brown sugar for the molasses. I don’t like the strong flavor of molasses, but the thing that makes brown sugar brown IS molasses. So I get the subtle sweetness without being overpowering (for my palate.) Try some brown sugar!
Hi Jenn! This is one of my very favorite chili recipes – it is delicious! This weekend, I will be making it for a group of hungry college kids and want to double the recipe. How will that change the cooking time? Thanks so much – I just LOVE your blog and both of your cookbooks!
So glad you enjoy it, Jill! I think the cook time should be about the same, maybe 15 to 20 min longer. I would just cook it til the consistency looks right and the meat is nice and tender.
One of my winter ‘go to’ recipes- my guys love it. Two are allergic to beans so when I first tried it and they loved it, well, there just isn’t a better feeling. Thanks so much Jen. You always come through!
I’ve always used a chili mix before, but never again. This was yummy, just the perfect balance of spices. I usually like things on the very spicy side, but I followed your recipe exactly. Delish as is.
My friends that I shared some with now want the recipe, even my friend that doesn’t cook.
Thanks again for another superb recipe.
Outstanding recipe, as always, Jenn. Like many other followers, I added beans and upped the spice level, but that’s just about personal preferences. In my opinion, the ancho and chipotle chili powders, and the cumin, are essential. My new go-to chili recipe. Thanks for a keeper.
I should have known that this recipe would be just plain awful: who puts chili over rice (gross)
uses vegetable oil, cinnamon, no beans?? I had to keep adding more chili powder and other spices..it is bland..I added kidney beans to try to salvage it.
I’ve been making and eating chili this way for 25 years: no beans and served over rice. I like to kick up the heat and top it with some sour cream. The rice and sour cream both temper the heat. I haven’t made this specific recipe yet but I prefer this style. Different strokes. Bon Apetit!
what a way with words. You come across as so angry.
BTW, depending on where in the U.S. you live, it is not uncommon for chili to be served over rice. I don’t care for it, but it is popular in various regions.
But back to the chili, perhaps you missed a step or your chili powder wasn’t fresh.
This is very, very good chili!
Maybe try it again….good luck.
For those with ulcerative colitis, and perhaps other medical issues, beans are a GI nightmare!! We loved finding a recipe without beans and complex flavorings.
As with any recipe, tweak it to your liking.
Good grief Gail. If you want beans in your chili, then add them. If you don’t want it served over rice, then don’t serve it over rice. If you knew this recipe was so “awful” why did you make it? My guess is that you just wanted something to complain about.
Very adaptable chili. And the tenderizing method was a game changing tip!
I wish I could give this recipe 3.5 stars. I wasn’t crazy about it, though it was a very good quality chili. I will say that I did not have ancho chili powder so I used regular and that might have been the problem. I had to keep adding more spices because I found it not “chili” tasting enough and it was a bit too beefy for me (in taste). I did add kidney beans because for me, I NEED kidney beans in my chili. I will try this recipe in the future a few times before I decide it’s not my favourite chili recipe, adding ancho and seeing if it changes things. I did make Jenn’s cornbread recipe which is an absolute MUST to accompany this chili. Also: after a day it tasted a lot better.
Jenn, will it make a big difference in the taste if I just use regular chili powder instead of the ancho & chipotle? I know chili powders can vary a lot.
Hi Debbie, it’s fine to replace the ancho and chipotle chili powders with regular chili powder. The ancho chili powder adds a little heat, so feel free to add a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes. Hope that helps!
Made it for dinner and was sooooo delicious!!! Added a can of black beans for more fibre. Everyone loved it! Thanks for the recipe!
How many Cups is 1 serving?
I would guesstimate a serving is about 2 cups. 🙂
This is by far the best chili I have ever had. My husband said “Now THAT tastes like chili!”. Thank you so much for this recipe. I didn’t change a thing, just added beans.
Yowza! This one made it onto my wife’s Facebook page. Again with the perfect spice balancing. You rock with sparkles! Using the Test Kitchen technique really delivered the tender.
I enjoy improvisational, intuitive cooking. Not reliable, but fun. I’ve also come to enjoy my wife’s pleasure and relaxation when she knows I’m following one of your recipes. Thanks again for helping this husband-homemaker advance toward Certified HearthMaster status.
Wow! I’ve finally found my go-to chili recipe–the best I’ve ever tasted! I love the complex flavors (cinnamon and molasses, oh yes!) the richness, and the thickness. Lime juice at the end adds brightness and just takes it all over the top. Spice level is perfect too. Now, please excuse me now as I go toss out all my other chili recipes 🙂
We had family over for football last weekend, so I made a pot of this chili and added a poblano and a can of mild chili beans that I had in the pantry. It turned out great! My husband usually makes chili without a recipe and is rarely happy with it…lol. I served the chili with various toppings and a pan of cornbread. Everyone thought it was delicious!
love, love and love this recipe. I made this last night for picky stinky people. 🙂 they loved it and I will only make this version of chili from now on and forever. thank you so much for giving my family the best of all tastiest meals ever. I never go wrong cooking from your page, it’s always a success.
I cannot find any chipotle chili powder. Any suggestions for a substitute? Please advise when you have a chance!
Hi Staci, You can replace the chipotle chili powder with regular chili powder. Enjoy!
I get mine from The Spice House. They have lots of chili powder options!
If you can’t find chipotle powder try looking for chipotle sauce in a can. It’s usually in the ethnic/hispanic aisle in a small can. A little goes a long way so can keep remaining in the fridge for many mths.